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Donabe: History, Use, and Care

History

Banko ware aka Banko Yaki (萬古焼)or Yokkaichi Banko Yaki (四日市萬古焼)is a heat resistant earthenware that has been made in Mie prefecture since the 18th century. It represents the majority of culinary stoneware, now commonly known as Donabe, produced in Japan.  It is officially recognized as a traditional Japanese craft. 

We are proud to carry Banko ware from Kagetsu, a family business making ceramics for over 150 years in Yokkaichi, Japan. 

Kagetsu was the creator of the modern donabe clay formula, and the company is. named after the patented kiln used to fire them.  As household cooking in Japan was transitioning from traditional wood-fire to gas after World War 2, donabes needed to adjust being exposed to higher temperatures. The current CEO’s father and uncle identified petalite as a key ingredient that can increase the donabe’s heat tolerance, after finding clues in the heat-resistant tiles of NASA rockets. 

Because our line of Kagetsu donabes use a higher percentage of petalite in its clay formula than other companies, it is resistant to cracking. So much so, that you can bring it from the fridge straight to direct flame. 

(For Kagetsu Rice Donabes) The higher percentage of petalite also allows to cook rice in a shorter period of time of just 10 minutes without any heat adjustments. Rice made in a Kagetsu donabe tastes much better than rice made in the most expensive electric rice cooker.  The grain structure is kept intact, offering a superior, sweeter taste and aroma. 

 

Use & Seasoning

When cooking in Kagetsu donabes, a far infrared wavelength is created which makes for more efficient cooking as it holds and distributes heat evenly. These donabe can be used on gas range tops, inside an oven and for brief re-heatings microwave ovens. Unless IH specified, Kagetsu donabe are not suitable for electric range tops (electric oven is ok), no deep frying or use on induction burners (IH). 

It is not necessary to do medome, or seasoning with Daikoku Banko ware donabe (wow!). However, if you find that there are irregularities and small cracks forming, you should season it as follows: 

Mix potato starch and water, or togijiru, which is the milky water from washing and cleaning rice. If using potato starch mix, use 600 ML to 1 TB potato starch.  

Fill donabe to about 80% capacity with either mixture.  

Bring to a boil, then let the liquid sit and cool. Once this is done, wash your donabe and dry completely before use. This process seals the microscopic pores occurring naturally in clay pots and prevents leaks and damage.  

 

Measuring & Cooking

Kagetsu Daikoku Banko ware rice donabe are measured in the Japanese traditional unit, gou.

1 gou = 180ml or ¾ of a US Cup

The inner lines in all Daikoku Banko ware rice donabe are to measure water to cook short grain white rice, and are staged in one-gou increments. 

The bottom line in 2, 3, and 4-gou donabes begin with a 1-gou measurement. The bottom line in 6-gou donabe starts at 2-gou measurement.

After washing your rice, transfer to donabe and add recommended measurement of water that correlates to the measurement line. Soak rice for at least 30 minutes before cooking. Soaking rice in a different vessel and transferring it to your donabe will alter the measurement of water used, resulting in softer or mushy rice.

 

Short Grain White Rice

Soak washed rice in donabe for at least 30 min (longer in lower temperatures). Use 200ml to 1-Gou rice.  

If the rice you're using new crop rice, you will most likely use a little more water than usual. Generally, depending on how soft or firm you like your rice, you can also consider trying different ratios.

Cook donabe on medium to medium-high heat for 10-18 minutes.  Timing will depend on the quantity of rice being cooked (for instance, a 6-Gou donabe will take longer to cook than a 2-Gou donabe).  Once the pot reaches boil and desired cooking time is reached, you should see steam rising from the hole in the lid. A good marker for when to turn off the heat is 30 seconds to 1 minute after you see full steam come out from the lid. 

Turn off heat and let the rice steam for 10-20 minutes. Do not open the lid while it's steaming/ resting).  Once the rice is done steaming,  stir gently with a rice spatula ( if wooden, one that has been soaked or wet before use) to allow the excess water and steam to escape before serving.

 

Short Grain Brown Rice

Soak washed rice in donabe for 30-60 minutes  (longer in lower temperatures). Use 300 to 330 ml water to 1-Gou rice.

Cook donabe on medium to medium-high heat until it comes to a boil. Timing will depend on the quantity of rice being cooked (for instance, a 6-Gou donabe will take longer to cook than a 2-Gou donabe). Once desired cooking time is reached, you should see steam rising from the hole in the lid. This means you've reached boiling- now, reduce heat to low and cook for 20 more minutes.   

Turn off heat and let the rice steam for 10-20 minutes. Do not open the lid while it's steaming/ resting). Once the rice is done steaming, stir gently with a rice spatula (if wooden, one that has been soaked or wet before use) to allow the excess water and steam to escape before serving.

 

Microwave

For the Daikoku Banko Ware Microwaveable Rice Donabe 3-Gou, there is no need to pre-soak the rice before cooking. Cook for 15min (based on a 500 watt microwave) and then let rice rest for 5- 15 minutes.  Ideally, the more rice you cook, the longer it should rest.  We recommend experimenting with your cooking time to achieve your desired rice firmness and texture.

 

Care

  • Clean with soap and water once pot is cool.
  • Use a stiff natural brush or mild, non-metallic scouring pad to clean. For stuck-on burnt food, simmer with water and a tablespoon of baking soda.  Let cool and use brush or non-metallic pad to scrub clean.
  • Donabe lids are not guaranteed to be resistant to extreme heat.  With exception to specialized Toban lid, do not expose to direct flame.
  • Use heat protection while handling to avoid burns.
  • Do not soak in water for prolonged periods of time.  Dry completely and store after use to prevent mold and/or mildew.  
  • Do not fill with oil or use for deep frying. 
  • When hot, do not place directly on surfaces without heat protection. 

 

Sizing for Rice Cooking Donabe

2-Gou - 1-2 people

Height of Body with Lid: 150 mm
Height without Lid: 119 mm
Diameter on Inside: 116 mm
Diameter from Handle to Handle: 205 mm
Depth on Inside: 70 mm
Weight: 56.55 oz

3-Gou - 1-3 people

Height of Body with Lid: 175 mm
Height without Lid: 130 mm
Diameter on Inside: 160 mm
Diameter from Handle to Handle: 247 mm
Depth on Inside: 80 mm
Weight: 86.74 oz 

4-Gou - 1-5 people

Height of Body with Lid: 215 mm
Height without Lid: 145 mm
Diameter on Inside: 170 mm
Diameter from Handle to Handle: 270 mm
Depth on Inside: 105 mm
Weight: 104 oz 

6-Gou - 2-8 people

Height of Body with Lid: 225 mm
Height without Lid: 150 mm
Diameter on Inside: 185 mm
Diameter from Handle to Handle: 305 mm
Depth on Inside: 100 mm
Weight: 146.64 oz